George Frederick Ayres

George Frederick Ayres 1884 – 1951

The Police Constable responsible for Shepherdswell, George Ayres served in the Bakery Division of the Army Service Corps.

Born on 16 November 1884 to James and Sarah Ayres (née Aspey), one of the couple’s nine children, George grew up in Old Brompton, near Gillingham. His father ran a small bakery business, in which George learnt the skills of the trade. 

At the age of 19 (22 February 1904), he enlisted at Chatham as a Private in the Army Service Corps (three years in the Colours, nine years in the Reserve). After six months training at Aldershot and postings at Windmill Hill and Perham Down barracks (Wiltshire), George returned to Aldershot to work in the bakery. He also trained in Field Bakery operations. After twelve months, he was transferred to the Woolwich barracks to work in its bakery until his discharge on 20 February 1907.

A few weeks before leaving the army, George married Ethel Killick (9 February 1907), the couple initially setting up home in Chatham. In July the same year, George applied to join the Kent County Constabulary. On becoming a Police Constable in November 1907, he was posted to Deal, then to Ramsgate (1910) before, in January 1914, becoming the officer responsible for Shepherdswell. George, Ethel and their two children moved into Hillside, a house on Church Hill.

George was recalled to the Army Service Corps on 6 August 1914, just two days after the declaration of war. He embarked for France on 11 August, saying farewell to his heavily pregnant wife, who would give birth to the couple’s third child the following month.

During the first two years of the war, George was assigned to the First Field Bakery. He would have worked in a group of around 92 men, using mobile ovens to produce bread to feed a division of around 20,000 men. 

Inside a field bakery on the western front

The bakery system was reorganised and centralised in mid-1916 and in September George was posted to the Seventh Field Bakery based in Rouen. In June 1917, he was promoted to Corporal. On his discharge from the army in March 1919, an officer described George as having an ‘exemplary’ character: ‘He is a very good baker […] He is willing, honest, sober and trustworthy and gave satisfaction.’

George returned to his role as Police Constable in Shepherdswell. He was a well-known figure within the village until his retirement in October 1932. He and his wife returned to Chatham, where George died in 1951.

Sources: Service Record, Kent Police Museum; Dover Directories; NA WO363; John Hartley, Bully Beef & Biscuits: Food in the Great War (Pen & Sword, 2015).